Sanctuary Policies in America




“Sanctuary” policies are ordinances, resolutions, executive actions or any initiatives that prohibit local officials from inquiring, acting on, or reporting an individual's immigration status—even when there is reasonable suspicion that an individual is in the country illegally.


What is a Sanctuary City?

In cities across the country, local jurisdictions have even gone so far as to shield illegal aliens by adopting policies that actually restrict state and local police from cooperating with federal authorities. In all but the most serious cases, they are being directed to ignore U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests.

Cities with such non-cooperation policies are labeled “Sanctuary Cities.”


By accommodating those who violate our immigration laws, sanctuary policies encourage others to follow the same path, and gives prospective immigrants little incentive to pursue legal paths to immigration.



One of the ways that jurisdictions become sanctuary cities is by refusing to cooperate with requests from the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division. ICE issues immigration detainer requests when another law enforcement agency has custody of an illegal alien of interest.

An immigration detainer "serves to advise another law enforcement agency that the Department [of Homeland Security, specifically ICE] "seeks custody of an alien presently in the custody of that agency, for the purpose of arresting and removing the alien."

Between January 2014 and September 2015, jurisdictions across the country declined 18,646 ICE detainer requests. California alone declined 11,171 requests.


Declined Detainer Requests Across the Country



Building trust in the community means enforcing all laws for all residents. Excluding illegal aliens from the law for political gain reduces trust in law enforcement and puts us all at risk.


recommended reading

The Role of State & Local Enforcement in Immigration Matters and Reasons to Resist Sanctuary Policies issue brief

"Sanctuary" Policy is Bad Public Policy factsheet

Sanctuary Cities: Obstructing Immigration Enforcement policy analysis

What Did the Department of Justice Really Promise on Sanctuary Cities? policy analysis

The Obama Administration Is Not Cracking Down on Sanctuary Cities published op-ed

Congress Must Act Now to End Sanctuary City Policies policy analysis